Derelict Crab Pot Removal and Prevention in Southern New Jersey
A crabber removes a derelict crab pot.
Derelict crab pots are removed from coastal waters. (Photo Credit: Elizabeth Zimmermann, Stockton University)

Stockton University and the NOAA Marine Debris Program teamed up to remove derelict crab pots from coastal bays in Southern New Jersey. As part of this project, Stockton also educated and trained crabbers on how to prevent trap loss and use low-cost sonar to locate and recover lost pots during the crabbing season.

Type of Project: Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant

Region: Mid-Atlantic

Project Dates: September 2015 - September 2017

Who is involved?
With the support of a NOAA Marine Debris Program Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant and in partnership with local crabbers, Stockton University helped to restore 11,030 acres of coastal bay habitats by removing over 1,000 derelict crab pots from ten coastal bays. Stockton University also focused on education and outreach efforts, in part through partnership with the WeCrab project led by Rutgers University and supported by a NOAA Marine Debris Program Marine Debris Prevention through Education and Outreach Grant.

What is the project and why is it important?
This project builds upon a derelict crab trap removal project in a nearby coastal area led by Stockton University and funded by the NOAA Marine Debris Program in fiscal year 2013. In this previous study, Stockton University identified high crab pot loss in coastal bays (>250 pots/km2) due to the intersection of commercial and recreational crabbing and high recreational boat traffic. With the assistance of local crabbers, they removed 1,038 derelict crab traps. Derelict crab pots can damage sensitive habitats, create navigational hazards, and can capture various marine species including harvestable crabs, resulting in potential lost catch opportunities and financial losses for fishermen.

With this project, Stockton University worked with local crabbers to identify and remove over 1,000 derelict crab pots from ten coastal bays located from Tuckerton to Ocean City, New Jersey. All salvageable pots were either returned to their owner or made available to local crabbers, while non-salvageable pots were recycled.

The project also conducted three education and outreach activities: peer-led training programs for commercial crabbers, awareness programs for recreational crabbers and boaters, and a derelict crab pot prevention campaign. The peer-led training program was run by Stockton University’s local crabbing partners and focused on educating crabbers. Topics included avoiding high loss areas, excluder devices and biodegradable panels, how to use low-cost sonar, and in-season recovery methods. The awareness program provided best practices for preventing pot loss through materials on the WeCrabNJ.org website, outreach materials used as part of the Southern New Jersey Coast Guard Auxiliary Boating Safety Education courses, and presentations at events and for local community groups. For the prevention campaign, Stockton University installed marina and boat landing signs to help inform recreational boaters on best practices and to distribute information on the WeCrab prevention project.

For more information on this project, check out the Marine Debris Clearinghouse.